Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Digital Marketing Audio - Podcasting for Authors

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="120" caption="Podcamp AZ -- Four years strong!"]Podcamp AZ [/caption]Last weekend, I had the honor of speaking at PodCamp AZ 2010 to a small group of authors interested in using podcasting as part of their marketing efforts. And by small I mean two-authors-and-three-interested-friends-some-of-whom-might-become-authors-some-day-but-probably-not. Not that I'm terribly surprised -- PodCamp AZ probably isn't high on the radar for local authors, and the connection between podcasting and authorship is anything but apparent, though I've been working in that space for over five years.

My friend Dani Cutler was kind enough to record audio of my talk. She's the host of a political podcast called the Truth Seekers and was one of the aforementioned friends in attendance. She was also kind enough to do all the editing and cleaning up of the audio as appropriate. She tells me it's difficult to hear the audience interaction, which I obviously did due to the intimacy of the crowd. So your mileage may vary.

If you're interested in the topic, Podcasting for Authors, jump back in time through the magic of the interwebs. It's about a 50 minute file, so find a nice long drive where you need something to listen to.

Note: I'm violating one of my cardinal rules: always listen completely to the audio file before releasing to the public. No, I didn't. Mostly because I simply don't have the time this week. And Dani knows how to clean up audio. She's a seasoned vet and I likely wouldn't be able to do any better. And it's live audio, so deal.

Note #2: I've been doing lots more of this digital marketing for authors stuff as of late. And I rather enjoy it. Niche, anyone?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Are you ready for Podcamp AZ 2010?

It's almost Podcamp AZ time once again. I'm looking forward to Podcamp AZ 2010 even more than the three that came before because I'm not helping to run it this year! A great group of volunteers has picked up the reigns and is busy putting together a kick-ass event that we'll all enjoy. It's happening soon: November 20-21 2010 in Tempe, Arizona. So get registered now!

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="450" caption="Podcamp AZ 2010"]Podcamp AZ 2010[/caption]Podcamp AZ is a relevant media unconference. I rather like that title, particularly the word relevant. There is no more "the" media. Some of the biggest media from the perspective of impact is ran by the smallest number of people. The media giants of yesterday continue to speak to a disinterested audience. Print is dead or dying. My media is not your media, and that's a Good Thing.

I'll be a part of two events at this year's Podcamp AZ. The first is a "genius panel" (their word, not mine). It's a special Podcamp session that is 100% dedicated to questions from the audience. I'll join fellow podcasting thought-leaders Debbie Walker, Dani Cutler, Jack Mangan, Teel McClanahan, Marc Spagnuolo, & Nicole Spagnuolo on the stage. You'll come with plenty of questions. Sounds like fun!

I'm giving a solo-session as well, continuing my focus in the new world of publishing. Here's the description:

Podcasting for Authors
For almost six years now, some “underpublished” authors have found success behind the microphone. Some record their own serialized audiobook and release it as a podcast. Others hit the podcast interview circuit. Many have found themselves video darlings. But they all share one thing in common: a do-it-yourself mentality. I’m the co-founder of and the author of Podcasting for Dummies. I’ll walk you though those who have done it well, how to avoid pitfalls, and teach you how to rock this on your own. If you have the drive and desire, that is.

Get registered. Get here. And get podcasting!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Social Media 101 – Social Media Mistakes

Tonight is another Social Media Club Phoenix meeting, and once again I'll be leading the Social Media 101 class before the main meeting. In case you've forgotten the details:

When: Second Thursday of each month, 5:30 SHARP!

Where:, 4747 N. 22nd Street (between Indian School and Camelback) in Phoenix

Cost: FREE to attend.

Of course, you're welcome to hang out for the regular #SMCPHX meeting that kicks off at 6:30 and goes until 8:00. Their topic: Social Media Strategy – If you don’t have a plan, how do you know if you succeed?

But back to me and the class I'm leading. We'll be talking about the biggest mistakes you can make in social media, and I hope to make it an interactive class. I have 10 examples of major faux paus, some of which I've made myself and all of which continually crop up as new people discover the supreme coolness that is social media.

Do you have suggestions? Leave comments here. Or better yet, come to the class and share! While it's designed for beginners, there's plenty of room in this session for others to share, too. See you at 5:30, SHARP!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Google Webmaster Tools and Your Site. Do It Now!

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Infection by KayVee.INC, on Flickr"]Infection by KayVee.INC, on Flickr[/caption]A few days ago, the fine folks at Google sent me a note. It seems that they -- Google -- had detected malware on one of the websites I manage. Anyone visiting that site ran a risk of having their computer infected with malicious code. That's bad. Muy mal.

Luckily the fix was easy. Google even pointed me to the exact place where the problem was happening. Google. The giant company. They could have removed my site from their index. But they didn't. Instead, they contacted me. I fixed it. The warning went away. And all is right with the world.

I'm not special. I'm smart. I added my site -- as I do all of my sites -- to Google Webmaster Tools. Yeah, it's a crappy name that brings up memories of 1998 when there was as single person who "mastered" the website. Those days are long gone, but the name has stuck.

Google Webmaster tools gives you a ton of insight to how users are interacting with your site. And also how Google sees your site. It's specifically because I had added the site to Webmaster Tools that this notice was sent to me. If I had not, Google would not known who to notify about the problem. And eventually, my site would have been removed from Google's index. And once that happens, it's a royal pain in the ass to get it back in. Without being in Google's index, your site might as well not exist at all.

Have you signed up for Google Webmaster and added all of your sites? No? It's free and just takes a minute to get going. What are you waiting on?

Friday, August 6, 2010

When to charge for advice you give away for free

"When you ask me to consider your specific business challenges, the meter is running."1

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="160" caption="Please Pay Here 3-14-09 19 by stevendepolo, on Flickr"]Please Pay Here 3-14-09 19 by stevendepolo, on Flickr[/caption]Figuring that out was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Not that I don't like to get paid, you understand. I'm a huge fan of making money. For me, the challenge was coming to grips with the fact that my opinion was worth something, sometimes.

I'm a problem solver by nature. I'm not talking about logic puzzles or those infernal Rubik's Cubes. But give me a business challenge to overcome, and my mind can't help but start turning it over and over. Eventually, a solution comes tumbling out. Most of the time, I'll spot challenges before others, even business owners. I was at a local eatery recently chatting with the owner, and innocently offered up a two solutions to help reinforce his brand and increase traffic to his location. His comment: "Do you ever stop thinking?"


Which brings me back to the aforementioned hardship: figuring out sometimes.

If you catch me at an event or a social engagement, free advice from me is there for the taking. That may sit strange with other consultants, but not with me. I'm there, and am quite capable of making sure one person doesn't monopolize my time and finding something else to do when someone whips out a business plan.

If you want to take me to breakfast, lunch or dinner; the situation is similar. Again, others who make their living delivering business strategies may squirm here. Even if you take me to a fancy restaurant, I'm likely not to eat and drink my way through $225 in an hour. But I eat fast, and complex business problems likely won't be solved over a meal.

For everything else, we need to work out a business relationship. That's hard for a lot of people to understand and perhaps even more to afford. Sorry. But the advice and counsel I give is valuable. And outside of the times mentioned above and perhaps a few others, my time is precious. Sometimes that time is spent in ways that enable me to earn my rate. Sometimes it's spent on things I want to do, learn about or see. I'm a huge fan of free, but in the absence of fee, I get to decide where my time is spent. Your worthy project has to compete with my worthy projects. Which do you think will win?

While I'm on the subject: I'm not really interested in taking equity in lieu of fees. Can it work? Yes. Have I done it before? Sure. Will I do it again? Probably. But the chance is pretty slim. I'd have to really love the idea. Not just like it. And just like with my time before, there are a lot of things I already love. I probably don't have room for one more unless I have to give up a current love.

And keep this in mind: skills and talent are important. But only marketable skills and talent are worth money.

1 - Those words of wisdom were uttered... or at least typed, by Jason Falls. He's a social media educator and strategist. And very smart. Start reading Social Media Explorer. You'll thank me.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Coping when clients will not take your advice

"As anyone who consults to brands via an agency or consultancy can tell you, companies often hire experts... and then don't follow the experts' advice."1

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Don't Do That by jemsweb, on Flickr"]Don't Do That by jemsweb, on Flickr[/caption]If you're considering a career in... hell, just about anything; get used to the aforementioned fact. It will happen. And a heck of a lot more often than you expect.

It happens to editors when authors balk at their suggestions. It happens to designers when clients insist that they get rid of all that wasted space. It happens to brokers when clients want to hold onto a stock for sentimental reasons. It happens to waiters, plumbers, doctors, trainers... everyone. And it's not changing anytime soon.

So how do you cope? Start by accepting it. Develop a "I'd advise against that course of action for these reasons, but it's your money" script. It'll largely go unheard, so you'll want to find a way to fix it in something a bit more tangible than a conversation. Email is good.

And don't get cocky: You could be wrong. You're a fool if you think you understand your clients' business, intent, desires and goals better than they do. Granted, you may understand the landscape and environment better than they, but don't confuse the two.

And develop a thick skin. Sometimes you're being paid to be a comfort to someone. To make them feel like they've gone through the motions by asking your advice, then ignoring your advice. Don't take it personal. You were compensated for the delivery of the advice. That's enough of a reward. If they actually follow your advice, that's just icing on the cake.

But don't be complacent. Sometimes, wrong is just wrong. Wrong tends to be cloaked in statements like this: "I don't care how shitty it looks. If it gets the phone to ring, it works!" Your clients expect you to point out when their short-term goals may displace more important longer term goals, or when the measured outcome doesn't match with their prior stated objectives. If they are caught up in the moment, you must remain objective.

Finally, make sure you're in the right relationship with your client. You know if it's not working out. You know when it's past the point where neither of you are getting what you need. You know when it's time to walk away. Of course, knowing when it's time and actually acting on that is another thing all together.

So take my advice... please?

1 - Taken from a post by B.L. Ochman. She writes on a variety of really smart topics in the social and digital space. If you're not reading her, you should.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Social Media for Authors a smash success!

Tonight I taught the Social Media for Aspiring Authors class at Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe. Not to toot my own horn (again), but I think it was smash success. The audience really seemed hungry for the content, and kept leading me right to my next point. And I only had to pull the "It's 2010" card once! Based on the feedback, I'm certain that Brandon and I will be working on a more formal workshop schedule. Excellent!

For those that made it: thank you. I truly enjoyed all of your comments and feedback. Thank you for being such an attentive audience.

And for those who didn't... well, it's hard to convey what we covered. I considered posting my outline, but I don't think in complete sentences. And I sure as heck don't outline that way. But here are the broad strokes:

  • We spent a good deal of time talking about the power of free. This is always a contentious topic, especially when talking to authors. And while I received a few questioning looks when I started, I think I won them over. Not that I attempted to convince them to give their stuff away for free. Not at all. But I did convince them that some authors are finding ways to use free to gain readers, book deals and real sales. They also walked away understanding this trend isn't a flash in the pan -- it will continue. And they have to try and work in that world.

  • I introduced my "Three Tees that Plague Underpublished Authors" concept. It went over well and I think made my further points hit home that much stronger. They are:

    1. Quality -- Can you hire the rest of the production team to make your book exceptional?
    2. Quantity -- You need more where that came from. Period.
    3. Obscurity -- By and large, people aren't waiting to steal your work. Because they don't know your work exists.

    Who said anything about them starting with "T"?

  • Done is better than perfect, great is better than OK, but success comes when you create something that is truly remarkable. Those terrible books that are terribly popular? They are so because they are remarkable. How do you create something remarkable? [Insert Your Answer Here]

  • Yes, we got specific on social media properties. But it wasn't the focus. Nor should a talk like this ever focus on tools. Tool-specific talks can, but not a survey class. We covered Gmail (there was and is a purpose, trust me), Google Alerts, Facebook, LinkedIN and blogging. Notice anyone missing?

    One common misconception I had to correct at least twice -- updating once a month. That's not nearly enough. How much is enough? Well... more is better than less. If you're trying to do weekly, someone is successfully doing it daily. YMMV.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Evo Terra signing Anne's book, courtesy of Nick Bastian"]Evo Terra signing Anne's book[/caption]And then suddenly, the two hours were over. Yes, like that. And someone brought a copy of one of my books and asked me to sign it! Thanks, Anne!

But not to worry. I'll be back. Based on the questions during the class and the feedback I heard afterward, there's a great need for more of this. Let's do it! Keep watching here and the Changing Hands website. I'm sure you'll see more -- and more formalized -- classes with me starting up quickly!

Quick question: do I stick with "for Aspiring Authors" or switch over to my personal favorite " for Underpublished Authors"? I'm obviously biased, and much of this depends on what CH wants to do. But your comments would be helpful to steer us in the right direction...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Workshop: Social Media for the Aspiring Author

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Changing Hand Bookstore crowd"]Changing Hand Bookstore crowd[/caption]I think the writeup for this workshop I'm teaching says all there is to say:

Social media is often touted as the Holy Grail, a sure path to publishing success. But what about aspiring authors who don't have tens of thousands of fans waiting in the wings? Can social media help boost a budding novelist's career? Yes. And no. For nearly a decade, Evo Terra has been helping "underpublished" authors approach the world of new media. The co-author of Podcasting for Dummies, he's been a nationally syndicated radio show host, and is an influential social media practitioner. He's as jaded as he is excited about the opportunities offered by new media, and brings real-world examples germane to any author with dreams of publishing success. FREE.

The workshop is entitled Social Media for the Aspiring Author, and I'm teaching it at Changing Hands Bookstore on Tuesday, July 20 2010 from 6:30-8:30p. Changing Hands is an independent bookstore in Tempe, Arizona. They do an excellent job of introducing authors large and small to the general public and are probably the most frequented bookstores in town when authors are making their rounds across the country.

My friend and occasional co-conspirator Michael A. Stackpole teaches there regularly, often covering the topic of building a career as writer in a digital world. My approach (and hopefully my audience) will be a bit different, as I plan on addressing the foundational elements before the word "career" comes into play. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. You know. Just like everything.

So if you or someone you know might be interested, tell them about it. This first class is a free one!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Retweet and win a digital marketing prize pack

Who's up for some digital tool subscriptions and books valued at over $1,000? How about if I told you all you had to do was retweet something to win?

Yes, simply retweet. It's that simple.

It's part of a promotion from agencyside, an agency training firm (They're on the agency's side. Get it?) I've been known to affiliate with from time to time. Good people. Anyhow, they're looking for people to follow their Twitter account and to spread a hash tag around. Do that, and you're entered to win. Here are the steps:

  1. Follow @agencyside on Twitter. If you don't have a Twitter account, get one. If you're reading this blog, you need one. It's past time. Seriously.

  2. Retweet (cut and paste into your "What's happening?" box and send) the following message: RT @agencyside Win the Digital Marketing Prize Package from top experts! #ascontest

The end. It doesn't get any simpler. Do it, and you're automatically entered to win a killer digital marketing prize pack valued at over $1000. Heck, the lifetime sub to Authority Labs is worth it alone to anyone who has to do SEO rank tracking, as is the 6 months subscription to agencyside's reams of content.

Not a digital marketer? That's OK. Go ahead and enter. If you win, you can pass the prize on to the digital peeps in your organization. You'll be their hero!

The contest starts now (yesterday, really) and ends on May 21st. So get to tweeting!

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Monday, April 19, 2010

5 Simpler Ways To Stop Working All The Time

NEW YORK - MAY 20:  New York City firefighters...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Work, work, work. It's never done, is it? And in the world where you're always connected to to everyone else in your network, the line between work-time and life-time is continually blurred. You feel like you're drinking from the fire hose hydrant, and it doesn't feel like it will stop.

Hey, I feel your pain. Really I do. I often get asked how I keep doing all the stuff I do without going insane or tapping into the quantum universe. To be honest, sometimes I do a rotten job at it. But most of the time, I do OK.

Here are five simple techniques I use to keep myself from working non-stop. While they work for me, YMMV.

  • Never work from your inbox
    Treat your email inbox like you do your snail-mail mailbox. Sure, you may spend a moment rifling through the letters while standing outside. But you certainly never shove things back in the mailbox to get to later.

    Why do you do this with your email?

    Get to inbox zero. Now. Stay there. Anything that needs working on, stick it in a folder. I call mine "Action". You can call yours "Work" or whatever else you like. This is where you move stuff to that needs your attention. This is your new repository of work items.

    If you can, shut off your new mail notification system. Checking mail isn't real work. Your real work is in that new folder you created.

  • Remove chatty news feeds
    You don't have to be first to know something. Mashable, Techcrunch, BoingBoing... all are great resources that you don't have to read. Why? Because someone else in your network is. Probably several people. Use your network as your filter of cool information. The biggest stories will cause serious tweeting, facebooking, and blogging from someone else in your network. Someone who is a lot less noisy than those other sources that simply overwhelm you.

  • Stop answering your phone
    Phones are interruptions. And you can tell who is calling. Concerned it might be an emergency? How often does that happen? Not very. And if it is an emergency, they'll call right back. Or reach out to you in another way. Use your voice mail to keep communications on your schedule.

  • RSVP with a "No"
    You don't have to attend everything you are invited to. In fact, you shouldn't. But you want to keep being invited, so be sure and respond to all RSVPs with a polite "no thanks". If you really hate missing things, ask someone who attended for a quick recap. It's not the same as being there, but is better than missing out all together.

  • Work on "battery time".
    Work expands to fill the time allotted for it. It also -- sometimes -- contracts as required. Working on a project that will take you longer than 2 hours? Break it up into chunks. Working on something that won't take 2 hours? Then go on to something else. Or simply stop when you are done with that project. Take a break. File some papers. Check your voice mail. Then get back to work. :)

Got a quick tip others could learn from? Leave it below.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Effective SEO: The ONLY 5 Things That Matter

Buring Money
Image by purpleslog via Flickr
Don't run away just yet. I promise not to turn this blog into one more place where some SEO1 expert moron spews out stuff they know nothing about. In fact, this will probably be one of the few times I talk about SEO. I promise.

But it's an important topic: The SEO "industry" has convinced everyone that this stuff is hard. Sorry, but it's not. I'm a firm believer that the most effective approach is to teach your designers and developers the basic and fundamental concepts behind good website design, architecture and implementation. Done properly, your web pages will get the rank they deserve. And you can worry about running your business instead of wasting money trying to find ways to subvert Google. Because you're never going to win that game.

Below is a talk I gave at Social Media Club Phoenix last week. I typically lead a "social media 101" discussion prior to the meeting. My class was about double the size from months prior. I have to assume that at least some of it was the topic: Dispelling SEO Myths -- something you wouldn't typically hear spoken about at Social Media Club. And because of that swell in attendance, I decided to post it here. Seems like lots of businesses are struggling with this. As usual, I have a simpler way to handle it.

Yes, just those five things. No, I'm not kidding. You could go deeper, but you're wasting your time if you haven't done those five things. You're also wasting your time if you can't do those things so are considering hiring an outside firm to do something else for you. That's wasting your money, because "something else" won't work. Do the things I tell you. If you can't, spend your money trying to get that changed so that you can do those things. Or if you want, give half of that money to me. I'll at least be upfront with you and tell you nothing will happen. Your expectations will be properly set and you'll know you're wasting money, rather than finding out what a waste it was six months from now. I'm kidding, obviously. Save your money until you can spend it on something that will work.

Preemptive strike for you SEO-types -- Don't bother. You may have examples upon examples of how your trick or technique works. I don't care. You and I both know the tricks you try have limited chances of working and only work for a limited time. You and I also know that every time it doesn't work, you blame it on the client's inability to implement your plan. I get that. See above. I'm trying to fix that. But no, I don't think you should be able to charge stupid amounts of money each and every month to unsuspecting clients who haven't the foggiest how your efforts actually help them sell more stuff. Because they probably don't. You can't argue me out of my position. I can't argue you out of yours. Let's just agree to disagree on this, OK?

Preemptive strike for those who want to hire me for SEO work -- If you want me to help you come up with a strategy to dump your outsourced SEO firm and bring it in-house, I can help. But if you're looking for someone to "just do the work", that's not me. I know plenty of very nice, very smart and very fair people who do SEO work and am happy to make a referral. That is, if any of them are still talking to me after reading this post.

1 - Search Engine Optimization. I hate the term and much prefer "SEF", or making your pages Search Engine Friendly.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

What I'm learning from my Give Evo an EVO campaign

Man vs. Machine 1
Image by otherthings via Flickr
Can one man really influence a large telecommunications company? Sure. Am I that guy? Hard to say. But I'm going to find out.

In case you missed the news, Sprint has a new smartphone coming out by HTC called the -- of all things -- the EVO. As I'm a customer of Sprint and a sucker for new gadgets, I obviously want one. Read up on the "why" here.

For the past five days, I've been producing a video a day on YouTube. And of course I've been tweeting and chatting it up on Facebook. Contrary to the evidence of those last 5 days, I'm a pretty lousy self-promoter. So I'm learning a lot that may be of some use to the readers of this blog. I don't think my actions as an individual make a direct parallel for businesses, but some lessons may be applicable. Like this:

  • Respond to comments. No big secret here. Conversation begets conversation. I asked my friend iJustine to spread the word on one of the videos. She did, and I got a load of comments, mostly from her fans. And mostly -- not surprisingly -- addressed to her. I blew it by not responding to these folks right away, but have since corrected my errors. If they took the time to comment, I should take the time to respond. And maybe they'll become a fan of mine, too.

  • Enlist those who do self promote better than you. Last night I roped Tyler Hurst into helping. He didn't need a lot of convincing to jump in front of the camera. And since he's part of the content, he's going to talk about it, too.

  • Don't neglect the backchannel. Not everyone wants to tweet, facebook and generally help a social thing spread. But some have connections and are happy to send emails. I'm getting some traction there, so maybe my goal will be realized!

  • Experiment! I didn't have much of a plan when I started this. That's OK. I'm refining as I go. Also OK. If you have discretionary time -- and I have only a little -- it's OK to take this route. But note that I didn't go out and spend a thousand bucks on new equipment or start paying people to help me. That needs a touch more planning.

A lot of folks are asking me about my end-game. Simple: I want that phone. But I also want to see how this process works and how it might be applied in other directions. Welcome to the experiment. I'm going to start a daily log over on that covers all the stuff I'm doing, and how I feel about it any given day. Watch over there if you like.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Obvious: I want the new HTC EVO phone, and need your help

Cross-posted from my other blog, I don't do this often, but in this case it seemed appropriate!

Dear Sprint,

I just got off the phone with Monica. She's a great customer service rep of yours. She informed me that I've been a Sprint customer since December 1, 1999. Sure, we've had our ups and downs, but the scales have been tipped more in to positive for most of that time.

I pay you just under $200 a month for our service plans. Three of them. All phones with unlimited data plans -- the big ticket item for you -- because we use the heck out of our phones. My wife and I are both on the Pre, and our son -- 1st year of college -- is on the Rant. In a world where at least 75% of our friends have made the switch to the one that rhymes with "eye-bone", we've not. Primarily because I want a phone first and a device second. But also because I really don't want to switch away from Sprint. We just had our 10 year anniversary, and I'm sentimental.

HTCEVOBut enough beating around the bush. I want the new HTC EVO™ 4G, and I'd like it now please. You've already let Engadget play with one. Gizmodo gushed about the 3.7 seconds they had access to it. CNET, Slashgear... you must have employed Santa to get you all over town in a single day doing demos.

I realized I'm not those media outlets. I've got a decent rep in the social and digital sphere. Some say I'm an influencer. But I have one thing that those other places don't, and that one thing makes me the perfect spokesperson for the new HTC EVO™ 4G from Sprint:

My name is Evo!

Who better to be carrying around the EVO than Evo? It's not like you're going to get that guy from Bolivia to make you this offer. He's a little busy. And I don't think 4G coverage works there.

But that's OK. You don't need him. You've got me.

So let's do this thing. It's the least you can do, considering the branding hell you're going to give me with this product. Not like I already have to compete against the above mentioned guy, a car company, tree-huggers1 and dog food for my name, right? Reach me at 602-325-3045 and I'll give you an address where you can send the phone. We'll take care of the necessary paperwork when you're ready.

Yours in love with the EVO,


Note to friends: Help me get this phone first and to be THE spokesperson for it. Or at least just the first part. Tweet it, re-tweet it, facebook it, re-blog it, call your congressman, pressure, pressure PRESSURE! Let's see what happens. :)

Update: I put a plea out on YouTube, recorded with my Palm Pre. You could help spread that, too!

1 - OK, OK... I'm a tree-hugger, too.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Remarkable Online Content from Remarkable Offline Business

The modern portrayal of Santa Claus frequently...
Image via Wikipedia
You could make an argument that Santa Claus has the best customer service in the world. Think about it. Traveling all around the world delivering the perfect gifts to every boy and girl? Beats the heck out of UPS, right?

Come to think of it, that means he's got the most remarkable products in the world to. Anyone who can get that many spot-on gifts for so many hard-to-please kids is the very definition of remarkable.

It would be a great business story, except for one problem. Yes, you guessed it: he's imaginary.

And so is your great customer service and remarkable product if evidence of that greatness and remarkableness doesn't exist online.

[pauses for food-throwing to stop]

Yes, I know that you do business in the real world. The transactions between your company and your clients happen there, not here. And not only do you not want to transition your business online, you can't! You can't fill a cavity remotely. You can't wow a crowd as a keynote from your desk, and people can't virtually sleep in your 1,000 room hotel.

But you can talk about those who did.

You need to build and publish content online that talks about those great and remarkable things about your company. Getting online is easy. Pushing out content like a publisher isn't. It takes a new set of skills. A new set of priorities. And a whole new way of thinking about the daily interactions between you and your customers.

How is your content? Where is your content? When will you start making the creation and publication of your remarkable content a priority?

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Friday, March 19, 2010

5 Simpler Ways to Lead Your Business to Social Media

Desert Leader
Image by Hamed Saber via Flickr
Getting your business started in social media isn't hard. But considering the amount of businesses that stink at it, maybe it should be harder. Or maybe businesses deciding to take the plunge into social media need to have a leader with a plan. What a concept.


  1. Monitor your brand. Google Alerts is a good place to start. Go wider with socialmention. Get serious and use Radian6 when you need to.
  2. Find employees who care. I'll be shocked if you don't have someone on staff who gets this stuff. This is their new job. Tomorrow.
  3. Let all departments play. This isn't one person's dominion. Social Media touches every aspect of your organization. Embrace that.
  4. Education matters. You're new to this. We aren't. Why make the same mistakes all over again?
  5. Demand results. If your team can't show you how this impacts your business, you may have the wrong team. Although you need to give them the tools and time to succeed.

    Juicy Details

    My friend Jay Baer suggests that your company make a commitment to do more than just do social media. He says -- and I agree -- that a truly successful company has to figure out how to be social. In the first, you're just going through the motions. Trying out one more new thing. And probably shuffling it off fast as you look for something else to try in passing. But the latter, actually becoming a social company, is something entirely different. It will change your organization -- for the better. But it won't do it by itself. It takes you, the leader of the company, to make the commitment. To see it through.

    Skeptical? You should be. So don't go off half-cocked. Here are five simpler ways to getting your business involved in Social Media. Do them right, and you'll see the changes I'm talking about.

    Up Periscope. You know all those conversations and all that engagement various pundits have been talking about for the past three years? Yes, that advice and information you've been ignoring. Guess what? It's happening. And the people having those conversations and engaging with one another don't really care if you are listening or not. They're having conversations about your brand. They're engaging with other people -- some of whom may be your employees. You're blissfully unaware. And they don't care.

    Or maybe that isn't happening. Maybe your product or service is so utterly unremarkable that no one is talking about it. No one is engaging. No one cares? Sure it's possible. It may even be likely. But you'll never know if you don't stick the periscope above the water line and take a look.

    Better said, you should start listening. The social web is inherently discoverable. Sharable. Social, if you will. Because of that, anyone can jump in and join the conversation. Or just listen. And that's where I want you to start -- by listening. Not engaging. Just listening. Listen first. Evaluate the landscape. Take the collective temperature. Then, and only then, can you take the next step.

    Listening to the social sphere starts out free. You can learn a lot by setting up Google Alerts on your own brand. You'll get emails sent to you every day when matches are found. When you're ready to broaden your search, give socialmention a try. Steve Farnsworth has a list of dozens of other similar free services. At some point, you'll want to graduate from free tools and do it like the pros. That would be me. I like Radian6, but selecting the right tool depends on the unique needs of each company.

    Let Your People Go. No, don't fire them. Well, maybe some. But I'm talking about the people who work for you who are already involved with social media. And if you don't think there are any: you're wrong. Someone in your organization has created a facebook group. Someone is tweeting about what they had for lunch. And someone has just checked in on Gowalla. It's happening. I promise. Right now, they're doing it under cover of darkness, because they think you'll flip out when you discover that they don't spend 100% of the 40+ hours you ask them to put in on strictly business-related work.

    But you can change that. You can find that person -- those people -- and understand that they are better at this stuff than you are. You have the power to give them the power to make their current clandestine operations a part of their jobs. Maybe their only job. Because you can't hire out for this stuff. We'll get to training and education in a minute, but you have to have the people responsible for being social for your company an integral part of your company. And why wouldn't you promote someone who's already intimately familiar with your company and is an active social media denizen? Yes, they currently perform valuable jobs for your company. No, they can't do that job and become the social springboard for your company. But you can always find someone else to do their current job. Do that. Now. Before your competitor comes along and offers them a job.

    Break Down Walls Between Departments. You don't get to have a Social Media Department. Sorry. This doesn't work like anything else you've tried before. Social media touches every aspect of your business. Marketing, PR, Customer Services, Tech Support, Operations, Biz Dev, HR... even Accounts Payable! The last thing you want to do is develop a formal inter-departmental policy for sharing of information up and down the chain. That way lies madness! And huge inefficiencies that simply won't be fast enough to allow you to respond at-speed in the social media world.

    Ultimately, you need social media team members in all of those departments! No, you're not going to make a new position within each one. You're going to let communication inside your company develop as naturally as communication develops outside of it. You're going to keep your lawyers and training staff at bay and busy drafting communications guidelines that clearly provides guidelines -- not rigid rules -- for how they should represent your company. And then you're going to tell the lawyers and training staff to relax and cut it down to a one-pager. This isn't about process. This is about providing a framework to allow your social employees can get their job done at the speed of social. And keep you out of hot water.

    Look Outside for Thought Leaders. The social world is changing fast. And no, it's not going away. Just like the internet didn't. And once you start letting your existing staff become internal social media experts, they are quite naturally going to start refining their social media skills as they currently relate to your organization. They are going to become the best experts in your industry... if you let them. Unfortunately, the world of social media is going to keep evolving outside of your industry. They won't have the bandwidth to keep up with everything new and learn how other industries are leveraging tools, techniques and tactics to increase efficiencies. Many of the strategic advances taking place elsewhere won't trickle down, and your company could be missing out on better opportunities.

    Combating this from the inside is hard. If not impossible. Your best bet? Go outside for strategy and realignment sessions. No, I don't think you should outsource your social media efforts. Yes, I do think that your company needs a frequent "sanity check" from independent and active social media practitioners. Things change fast in this world. That doesn't mean you should adopt every trend. Far from it. But you need someone you can rely upon to bring innovative ideas to your business. And unless you want to free up an employee to spend half their time pontificating, blogging and attending every possible social media conference, you're better off looking to the outside for this. I know a guy...

    Set Expectations and Demand Results. You're a business owner. You understand the business success metrics. You understand your goals. A big part of your up-front job is effectively communicating these to your social media staff so they can define hard measureables that you both agree upon. It's no good having you define those measureables. You don't know what can be measured! And it's no good having them come back to you with charts that show how many times a coupon was re-tweeted. But together -- probably with the help of the person above -- you can figure out what you should expect out of those conversations and engagements.

    Yes, social media can and should have a positive ROI. With real numbers you can take to your CFO and have him embrace. Easy? Nope. Critical? Absolutely.

    So... that was a long post. As much as I'd love to hear your feedback on the contents, I'm also curious what you think about the format? I rather like the idea of putting the takeaways at the top of the article. That way you can decide if you care enough to keep reading. But maybe I'm giving away the ending. Though... it's not like this is fiction, right?

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

What Business Can Learn from Trololo

I normally save the "fun" stuff for my other blog, keeping this one focused on online business and the more professional side of me. But today, we have attained crossover. Yes, the web is often a silly place. But the story I'm about to tell shows how silly can lead to something more meaningful. Though I'm a big fan of silly for silly's sake.

In 1966, Russian singer Eduard Khil preformed1 a lyrics-less tune on Soviet television. The tune goes by the unfortunate name of I 'm So Pleased As I'm Finally Returning Home. The lyrics, according to Blippiit, were considered anti-Soviet and had to be removed. Ah, repression.

Then time passes. About 44 years worth of time, actually. Due to the unaccountable weirdness that often is the internet, Eduard's performance surfaced on YouTube and has amassed well over 3 million views. So far. It's been seen on network television. It's been parodied by late night television. And the song with the horribly long name has now become the internet meme Trololo.

Normally, that's where the story would end. Yet another short-lived curiosity of the web, waiting to be overtaken by what's next.

But it turns out that Eduard is still very much alive and kicking. When he found out about his new internet fame, his reaction wasn't what you might expect from a man who's probably pushing 80. He got it. From what I've seen, he got it immediately. And he reached out in kind using the same medium that propelled him to this new-found fame in attempt to push the meme even further. Not with more silly parody skits. Not with a re-enactment. And certainly not with a "Ah, you silly Americans. You buy my music, yes?" request.

Eduard is encouraging others -- anyone, really -- around the world to add to the song. To use the collective connected world to add their own lyrics. To develop and broadcast live a new imagining of the song for 2010. That. Is. Cool! that is... remarkable.

What Trololo can teach businesses, organizations and entrepreneurs
  • Embrace the silly. Some things you just can't plan for. No one could have predicted that YouTube would cause a 44-year-old video to find fresh legs, travel around the world and (potentially) spawn something new.

  • YouTube's captioning of videos is ground breaking. And not just for foreign language content. It's easy. It's powerful. I'm of the mind that you should probably caption every video where the words are an important part of a message. How-to, interviews... all of it!

  • Engage and trust your audience. Eduard is one person. But hundreds or maybe even thousands of people will want to jump in and help with the next stage of this. Sure, there will probably be spoilers in there. But they'll quickly be out-voiced by true supporters. Eduard probably doesn't have a product to sell, a message to spread or a brand to boost. But you do. Do you encourage your current customers/supporters/fans to get involved. Why not?

Turn and face the strange. Ch-ch-changes. Are you paying attention yet?

1 - OK, so it was probably lip-synched. So what? The man is a born performer!

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Why free now probably means free later. Or not.

The Bill
Image by mrmatt via Flickr
During my presentation to the Arizona Association of REALTORS™ last week, one in the crowd of some 200+ asked me a question. I'd been waxing poetically about the crazy world we "digital citizens" inhabit. This was most certainly not speaking to the choir. My audience was mostly people who haven't progressed much beyond email in the digital space. That's why I was invited -- to show them ahem... a simpler way to get into the digital world of 2010. OK, maybe 2007. :)

The question asked is one I get fairly frequently. Apologies to Helen if I mangle the question, but the jist was this:

If we spend all this time signing up for these free services (Google, specifically), what will we do once the company decides to start charging, and these free services are no longer free?

It's a fair question. A completely unfounded one, but fair. Yes, there are plenty of examples of services that start out for free and then change to a paid model. I'm facing this right now with Get Satisfaction, a service I've grown rather attached to over at So I'm forced to pay. Or unplug. But I don't want to unplug... so I'll pay. Not with too much grumbling, as it's a great service.

But please understand that what I'm going through with Get Satisfaction isn't a parallel. Google isn't about to start charging you to use Gmail or use their search engine. It's antithetical to their business model.

Also understand this: you aren't costing Google money when you search or send an email. You are allowing Google to make money. Every search you conduct is another ad impression they can serve, and another chance you might click on a paid ad they serve. Every email you access has ads on the side. Sure, you ignore them almost all the time. But sometimes they catch your eye -- or someone's eye -- and they get clicked on. Money for Google.

So no, Helen. I'm not worried that Google will suddenly start charging for Gmail or even Google Voice, the other service I mentioned in my talk. These tools entangle me with Google, increasing the chance that I'll keep using their services. And letting them keep serving me ads. That I'll mostly ignore. Mostly.

Three things:
  1. The reality is that it's much more complex than I've outlined. But that complexity is for pundits to argue about. When you get to that level... have a good time.
  2. Lots of services do start charging after a time. I said that before, but you probably forgot. Not every service is Google, and you should expect some of the services you grow attached to to start charging. You'll deal with that as it happens. Just like we do.
  3. I'm talking way too much about Google lately. I promise the next post will not be about Google, OK? Thanks for your patience.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Find out how much Google knows about you...

... and then prepared to be disappointed, for it's not all that Earth-shattering.

Yes, Google tracks your behavior as you navigate the web. And so do thousands (maybe only hundreds) of other online entities. And if you're shocked by that, you're either not paying attention or new. If the latter, welcome to my site. If the former, welcome to paying attention.

Google, and lots of other sites, track you by something known as a cookie. It's not tasty, and diabetics shouldn't worry. A cookie is a nothing more than an identifying tag that gets associate with your browser. When you browse to different websites, websites read and set cookies all the time. Cookies do not pass personally identifiable information. Anyone who tells you differently is incorrect1.

Yet this still weirds people out. They worry that some straw man, let's call him Big Brother, is collating all these cookie entries, web history and other data to actually figure out who you really are, for some unnamed yet nefarious gain. And to that I say: balderdash.

Some time ago, Google got sick of everyone freaking out what they did and didn't know about you. So now instead of sweating that Google is telling a host of advertisers about your predilection of visiting some er... well, unsavory sites you may have stumbled across but quickly left when you realized what it was honestly it was only that one time I'm a good boy I swear... now you can just check to see what sorts of interests Google thinks you're into.

My list is shown in this post. If that's all they have about me, you probably have nothing to worry about. I'm online all the time. I visit lots of sites I probably wouldn't want my grandmother surfing to anytime real soon. Yet those don't show up. And the categories that do seem a pretty close approximation to my interests.

Personally and professionally, I think that highly targeted ads do make for a better online experience. Notice I didn't say that ads make for a better online experience. They are a fact of life and won't go away. So if I have to look at the damned things2, they might as well be as targeted to me as they can get.

So the bottom line: don't be scared. And don't jump to conclusions. At least that's my $0.02. If you have a differing opinion, that's what the comments are for. But please, no crazy conspiracy theorists. If that's your thing, go bug my friend Phil. He digs that sort of stuff. :)

1 - Yes, it is possible. I'm also willing to concede that it may have happened in the past. But there are enough privacy watchdogs fighting the good fight that I sleep soundly at night.

2 - Yes, I realize there are plenty of ad blocking programs or tweaks available to me. They aren't worth my time. They may be worth yours.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

You're doing it wrong in the bathroom

I get the need to market yourself. I really do. It's a down economy. You've got bills to pay. You want to make sure you make the most out of every opportunity to sell you product, service or business.

But isn't this going a little to far? Forcing your business cards on everyone you accost meet at an event is a bad idea. Littering every table in the venue just wastes business cards. But when you strategically place said business cards in the men's room on the urinals... you've taken the concept of wrong to a whole new level. And you certainly haven't figured out the meaning of the word strategic.

I snapped this picture at a local internet marketing event I attended this week. Yes, I said a marketing event. And no, it wasn't staged. And yes, both cards were placed in this configuration by the president -- the president! -- of the company. He placed others on the wash basin counter, but they didn't quite capture the same spirit as this shot. Remember: marketing event. [sigh]

Laughable? Yes. Hell yes. Remarkable? Yes, but not in the way he wanted. Plenty of remarks were made.

Let this be a cautionary tale. Your ill-planned attempts at drumming up business might do more harm than good. Seek business wherever you can, but know that some places are off-limits.

And I'll start off the puns -- What a piss-poor attempt! Have fun in the comments!

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Don't forget about the basics: My talk to the AZ Assn of REALTORS® today

Logo of the National Association of Realtors.
Image via Wikipedia
Today I'm driving up to Prescott to speak at the Arizona Association of REALTORS® 2010 Winter Conference. It's the same talk I gave to the National Association of REALTOR® late in 2009. And yes, you have to capitalize REALTORS and add the ® mark!

The talk is called Digitally Expose Yourself : Building Your Web Presence, and is aimed at those who are very brand new to the digital space. In fact, if you have any online acumen at all, you'll watch the presentation below wondering just who the heck needs this extremely low-level information.

Well, judging from the 350+ people in the room in San Diego a few months ago furiously taking notes, a lot more people than you think. And that's a good lesson to just about anyone in the digital space -- don't assume that your audience is at your level. Chances are, they aren't.

When I gave the talk the first time, I went to great pains to explain how basic the info was and gave my express permission for anyone to get up, walk out, and enjoy one of the other presentations going on at the same time as mine. Three people did. Three hundred and fifty stayed. And about a dozen had more questions after I was done. People are hungry for this information, and I'm happy to provide it to them.

How basic? See for yourself. Below is my dry run of the talk in SlideCast form. Not quite the same as seeing me live, but it's a close approximation.

And I hope someone turns the heater on before I get back to Phoenix. I hear they've just got a fresh batch of snow in Prescott. Yikes!

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Building your skills as a connector

Close connection - Verbundenheit
Image by alles-schlumpf via Flickr
As we progress closer to the post-scarcity world, it seems that nearly everyone is developing unique skillsets. Copywriters, mobile application developers, HTML5 experts, local business specialists, video optimizers... and those are just people I met yesterday. Mix in the countless jobs and specializations that have been around for years and you'll see that entrepreneurs and business owners now have a nearly endless talent pool.

If, that is, they can find them.

That's where the connector comes into play. Connectors know people. They know the skills that people offer and have a general understanding of how that skill fits into the marketplace. Connectors understand the rules of the new economy and are keen at spotting trends. As the economy improves, the need for well-positioned connectors will grow. Do you know one yet?

Building your connecting skills

Being a connector takes certain skills. And any skill can be honed. Here are some tips on doing just that, and a call for help at the end.

  • Build a network.
    There isn't an end-goal to a connector's network. We don't have a certain number of friends or followers in mind. We don't select a handful of social networks and ignore the rest. More important, we build out network outside the online world.

  • Stay informed.
    Connectors have become masters at drinking from the firehose. Yes, it's an ungodly amount of information. But along the way we've developed techniques and adopted tools that help intelligently filter out much of the noise so we can focus on the signal. Still, it's not easy.

  • Be visible.
    It's all for naught if the people looking for a connector don't know you exist. Offer to speak at conferences. Teach at events. Lead panel discussions. Create SlideCast presentations and share them with the world. Blog! Get used to creating copious amounts of material. Think like a publisher, and share everything -- and everyone -- you know.

  • Cultivate your list.
    Here's that cry for help: I'm lousy at this part. While I'm pretty good at recalling information and figuring out who's the best person when I'm asked to make a connection, my network has grown to the point where it's no longer efficient. I tend to keep going back to the same wells. Or I see the same person multiple times and fail to remember what unique skill set they offer.

How do you cultivate and care for your list of connections?

While there are plenty of contact management systems out there, they tend to be aimed at casual relationships or sales leads. The former seems more what I need than the latter, but the latter tend to be much more robust than the former. But too robust leads to clunky, and I don't have the time to spend on that.

I want an Evernote-simple tool that I can both dump info into and quickly pull info out of. I want to know who does what, and I want to know who's doing what new thing right now. I want magic, I know that. But Evernote proved that magic in the form of advanced technology does or will exist. I'm just waiting for the application in this space. Unless it already exists and I missed it? Help a brother out!

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Promoting may not be the best way to spend your time

Wacky Waving Inflatable Flailing Arm Man
Image by jcrew270 via Flickr
Conventional wisdom tells us that time, money and energy need to be spent on promotion. Whether you work for a business, are in business for yourself or maybe you are the business of yourself, you'll feel the pressure to promote. And you'll find countless examples of others who spend lots of time, energy and money on promotion. Promote, promote PROMOTE!

But what if you took all that time you spent promoting your business, your venture, your product, yourself... and spent that time instead being truly remarkable?

How much time would you need to spend promoting if you were truly doing remarkable things?

The fact is that most things that are promoted aren't remarkable. They aren't that much different than other similar things, of which there may be dozens, hundreds or thousands. In effect, they are terribly average -- even if they are quite good. So someone has to promote these average things to take away mind-share from other interchangeable average things. If these things were instead remarkable, people would make remarks about them. In turn, other people would make remarks, and others... And the cycle perpetuates. Sans promotion, perhaps?

Of course, you can't be remarkable in a vacuum. Someone has to have knowledge of "the thing" before they can make remarks about "the thing". And to do that, someone needs to put "the thing" in front of the audience most likely to make those remarks. But is that promoting? Or is that just smart marketing? Or is it something else entirely?

So given the choice of spending time, money and energy on either promoting or being truly remarkable... which will you choose?

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Monday, March 8, 2010

State of the Internet video

It's no secret I'm a fan of numbers. Facts and figure are just... cool. Especially when they are presented in a way that makes them interesting to everyone.

A recent "State of the Internet" video showcases some of these numbers. The word staggering comes to mind.

JESS3 / The State of The Internet from JESS3 on Vimeo.

Still think this whole social media thing is just a fad? I've got news for you: this is the internet today. Get used to it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Starting a Blog for Your Business? Start With a Business Case

Longleat Hedge Maze
Image by Howard▼Gees via Flickr
"Blogging is easy. Every business should have one."

That's often the only argument you'll hear consultants give when advising clients on the merits of blogging. After that, they wax poetically on a litany of benefits you'll get from blogging. Increase search traffic & better engagement with customers usually top the list. And while I agree with the last two, you lost me at "... is easy".

Relative ease does not a business case make.

A business case for blogging? You must be mad. It's easy!

Didn't we just cover that? And just so we're clear, strategic blogging for a business is certainly not easy. The mechanics alone are daunting to a the vast majority of people who don't let words spew forth from their keyboards naturally. It's a tactic that takes time and understanding to develop the necessary skills. And that's just to learn how to write. Now do it frequently. Against a schedule. On plan. And fit it in with the dozens of other things a business owner has to do every day to keep their business a going concern.

OK, Ok... ok. It's not easy. But a business case?

Yes, a business case. Listen: anytime you invest time or money in something for your business, you need to understand what you're getting yourself into. Don't get me wrong; I'm a sucker for spontaneity. Some of my best ideas were crazy "gee, I wonder if..." ideas that were launched shortly after the concept germinated. But the ones that are still going all -- without exception -- had at least a rudimentary business plan. I'm not talking about a 60-page document that needs to be ratified by the Board. The last business case I put together for a client was a simple spreadsheet.

But to my initial point, "it's easy!" isn't a business case.

Here are 3 questions you need answers to before you jump on the blogging train:

  • Do we have the content? If you're a retailer that relies mostly on your vendors to supply you with information about the products you sell, this may be a problem area. By and large, you can't repurpose collateral and have that be blog-worthy content. You need original material, written from your company's point of view and in your company's voice.

  • Do we have the time? If you're working your employees at close to maximum, they won't have a lot of bandwidth to dedicated to blogging. And the time it takes you to read a blog post has nothing to do with how long it took someone to write it. 2 - 3 hours per post isn't an unrealistic numbers. How will you balance that time against other productive work time from your employees?

  • Do we have the dedication? Every new blog starts out with the same number of readers: zero. Almost every blog grows at about the same rate: incredibly slow. Even with gangbuster content right out of the gate, you shouldn't expect any sizable audience for 6 - 12 months. Maybe 18. Are you committed to generating exceptional content on a schedule that entire time and accept slow and steady progress?

And for fun, here are 3 questions you should never ask yourself about blogging for your business, for the answers are abundantly clear:

  • Should we outsource our blog to someone else? Oh hell no. Yes, there are professional writers out there who perform copywriting services on a consulting basis. I'm one of them. But you do not want to outsource your blog content. There are many ways in which you can use these services to help your blog be better, but don't ever think you can hand the reigns over to someone else. The best business blogging comes from within. Hire, train or allow for personal development. Don't outsource.

  • Is our business interesting enough for a blog? Oh hell yes. You obviously think it's interesting or you wouldn't be doing it. And if the whole thing isn't all that interesting, there are some parts that are. Focus on those. If you can convey the interesting parts of your business in a blog, you've just made inroads with potential customers when they discover it. And isn't that what your sales people try and do anyhow?

  • Is there an audience who cares? This goes hand-in-hand with the last point. Don't assume your business blog has to appeal to tens of thousands of people. It doesn't! Interesting content will attract the right audience to it, and that will expose people to your business. Key words include interesting and content. No one cares about a blog full of posts about products. Blah.

So... ready to blog now? It may not be for you. Yet. Don't feel pressured. But don't ignore the question. Keep asking it. Some day, you may be ready.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

What the Flip can teach you about the power of a simple presentation

J's Super, Super 8 Video Camera
Image by jhmostyn via Flickr
Is your marketing campaign too complex? Maybe you think it needs to be. Maybe you're right. But sometimes all it takes is one new player in the market to change the game, and all that complexity falls away.

Take the consumer electronics and personal camcorders, for instance. My uncle's super 8 video camera from the 70s was pretty simple, yet looked rather intimidating. All I know is that I wasn't allowed to touch it. The first camcorder I purchased around 1990 had more buttons and dials than I could possibly master. And it seems that every year that passes requires at least one more bell or whistle to be added.

Enter the Flip, playing the role of game-changer to the market. Small, inexpensive and a built-in compulsion field. Hold the thing in your hand and you can't not start taking video. Yeah, it's that cool.

But not as cool as how it came to be. Business Week ran a story called Lessons in Simplicity from the Flip a few days ago. It's pertinent to anyone in business, and covers quite a few of the key points I like to harp on. Like the power of a simple, elegant presentation. Simon Fleming-Wood was responsible for convincing retailers to stock this new camera. A new camera that eschewed the standards of what modern video cameras should look like and what they should do. He states that...

... he spent 50% of his pitch on one very simple slide. He asked [retailers] to "reimagine" the category. The slide contains photos of two camcorders—a traditional video camera and the Flip. Under the traditional camcorder are the words: "Use this for special occasions." Under the Flip are the words: "Use this for everything else."

It's no secret I'm a fan of simple things. Hence, the name of this blog. I've been a reluctant marketer for over a decade and been in more battles with complexity than I care to imagine. Sometimes, things need to be complex. But much of the time, they don't. I'm reminded of that each time I pull out my Flip.

And while this story is ostensibly about a game changing product, it's more about a game changing approach. It takes guts to hinge your success on a single slide. It takes foresight to resist the temptation of shoving in more and more data to your presentations. Above all, it takes confidence in yourself, your knowledge, and your ability to convey your message in a way that will resonate with your audience.

Oh, and practice. :)

Your turn: How do you fight complexity in your presentations?

Doing a talk in Ignite or PechaKucha style will help. But not everyone can do that. Pass along your tips in the comments.

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